BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: Trainer Tom Button has three starters in Tuesday’s races, which will have no spectators thanks to COVID-19. Picture: Allan Reinikka
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: Trainer Tom Button has three starters in Tuesday’s races, which will have no spectators thanks to COVID-19. Picture: Allan Reinikka

HORSES: Huge field but no spectators due to restrictions

AS FAR as extremes go, those in action at next Tuesday’s Capricornia Yearling Sales 2YO Classic race day at Rockhampton’s Callaghan Park racecourse would equate to odds-on winner.

Tuesday’s TAB meeting will provide the biggest race fields: nine in all, bolstered by 134 horses declared to run, in the 32-year history of Rockhampton’s feature race for two-year-old thoroughbreds.

As well it will be the first time since the race’s inception in 1988, when won by Dashing Ruler, that it has not been scheduled to run on a Saturday.

Under normal convention such an alluring collection of horses racing for $294K in stakes on Tuesday would draw a sizeable patronage to Callaghan Park but normality doesn’t sit astride the year 2020.

The dreaded COVID-19, which transposed into a mythical racehorse has been winning many inventive phantom races calls on social media, means Callaghan Park will host races behind closed doors on Tuesday.

Like all Queensland race meetings presently, Callaghan Park is closed to the public and only trainers, jockeys, approved stable hands and essential staff and officials and definitely not owners, will be allowed entry on course.

Thank goodness for technology whereby the races will be beamed live on Sky Racing to “grandstand jockeys” in their lounge rooms and offices Australia wide.

Speaking of jockeys, the year 2020 has definitely helped the cause of the all too often overlooked local hoops as no “fly-in” or “drive-in” jockeys from outside the Central West and Central Zones can ride on Tuesday.

At last count there will be 15 jockeys spaced out (as in social distancing segregation), many getting well deserved but rare opportunities to share in the lucrative prizemoney on offer.

Taking it further for the first time in its 152-year history of racing, Rockhampton Jockey Club is obliged to introduce compulsory thermal testing of stakeholders as they arrive at the racecourse gates.

As the well-worn TV commercial declared “but wait, there’s more”, also photo ID must be displayed but no such problem for the horses as they are one stride ahead, being readily identified by microchip testing.

The feature race, the $75K CYS 2YO Classic (1200m) also has its own story to tell even this far out some four days before its 16 starters (maybe 14 depending on available jockeys) leave the barriers.

One stud, Oaklands from the Darling Downs, which has produced two of the past three winners of the Classic, is represented by a staggering six runners in the field which speaks volumes for its brand name.

Two trainers, Tom Button (Goodbye Earl, Miss Lot Won and The Silver Lady) and Fred Smith (Blow The Whistle, Queen Of Style and I Feel Real) have three starters apiece.

Woe be it though, many favoured runners including Princess Rules (20); Goodbye Earl (18), Miss Lot Won (17); Queen Of Style (16) and The Silver Lady (13) have drawn poorly but will come in a barrier or two minus the emergency runners.

In another first, more female jockeys will ride in the race than males, with eight declared in the CYS to six male jockeys.

The increased volume turnover on betting on Queensland thoroughbred meetings during the Covid-19 outbreak is certain to continue through Callaghan Park on Tuesday.

So, stay-at-home punters, (you have no choice) be prepared, have your refreshments or medications on hand as it promises to be a long day with the first race jumping at 12.20pm and the last at 5.20pm.

For the superstitious who may fancy an omen tip, there’s none better than Embattled (Race 2 -TAB 9) but not Hugs’N’Kisses (R 1 – TAB 20) as damn it, it’s a “no no” we are told in this enforced environment.

What a shame!



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